“The fans are the reason we made this movie. They go crazy for it,” rapper and moviemaker Ice Cube said in Dallas recently during a stopover with co-star Mike Epps to promote his new buddy comedy, “Friday After Next.” The picture is the third in the series of ensemble hood farces that began with the original “Friday” in 1994 and continued with “Next Friday” in 2000.
“When I made the first ‘Friday,’” he continued, “I never thought that I would make that one, let alone a sequel, then another sequel after that….But the fans kept asking, ‘When’s the next one?’”
The new picture has a holiday setting, with Craig (Cube) and Epps (who replaced Chris Tucker as Craig’s high-strung buddy Day-Day in the second installment) taking jobs as security guards at an L.A. strip mall on Christmas Eve. They need to make money fast because a thief wearing a Santa Claus suit has stolen their savings and the rent is due. Mayhem ensues in a series of episodes and surprises that come across like a modern version of a vaudeville show.
“That’s what it’s for,” Cube said. “This is for pure entertainment, pure laughs. No social commentary—nothing like that. This isn’t Barbershop [Cube’s other current release]. Just basically have fun.”
The holiday theme was, however, a late addition to the script. “I had thought of the strip mall idea,” Cube said, “and then when New Line said they wanted it to be released around November, late November, then I started thinking, man, this can be a holiday thing. We can take Christmas and give our movie a new paint job, in a way, and have fun with it. That’s when I started adding these Christmas elements. Christmas in the neighborhood.”
Cube admitted with a laugh that many of the crazy characters in the movie are based on friends and family members. “I never give names, but when they watch it, they know,” he said.
Epps chuckled when someone observed that though Cube had directed pictures himself in the past, he confined himself to writing, producing and starring this time, with newcomer Marcus Raboy taking over the helming duties. “I like the role of producer,” Cube explained, “because it gives me more freedom to not only do this project but to be a part of other projects, too.” To which Epps added with a knowing wink: “He’s there with the director, though, the whole time—whispering in his ear.”
The “Friday” series has gone on for so long, Cube added, that shooting the films has become a kind of family affair for the cast. “It’s like everybody enjoying each other’s company,” he explained. “I think that’s why the movie is so funny and the energy is so good in the movie, because we all love to do them. Everybody hates when the movie is wrapped.” Epps agreed: “It’s a party.”
One reason for the on-set exuberance is the freedom Cube, as writer-producer, shows to his co-stars. “You got people like that, you’ve got to give them room to run,” he said. “I write the scripts like a skeleton or shell or a frame. I get an idea and let them go think about it and then come back, and it’s expanded.”
And will there be further “Fridays”? “If [the fans] keep asking for it, we’ll keep giving it to them,” Ice Cube replied. “As long as we can keep thinking of fresh ideas and we can have somebody like this dude [Epps] along for the ride.”
To which Epps replied, “I’m glad to be part of the franchise.”